The Future of Southern Politics: Two views

Jamelle Bouie
Chris Kromm

For southern Democrats, the 201o election was utterly devastating.  In states like Texas and Georgia, white Democrats are becoming an endangered species.  Two articles, one in The American Prospect, the other in Facing South address the prospects for southern progressives. 

Jamelle Bouie’s article suggests that since southern whites have permanently abandoned the Democratic Party at every level of politics, the only sensible course is to forget about pandering to conservative whites and become a black and brown party of inclusion.  Bouie paraphrases  Georgia Democratic state chair, Mike Berlon with approval:

Democrats . . . shouldn’t abandon white Southerners but neither should they invest their full energy in them, given the low rates of return. They should turn instead to the Deep South’s growing population of Latinos. This means funding voter-registration drives for the South’s new residents. It also means fostering alliances and cooperation between African-American and Latino groups on legislation and civic engagement.

Chris Kromm takes a different approach.  So long as the electorate is divided into conservatives, liberals and moderates, prospects appear dim for southern progressives.  But a new report from the Pew Research Center breaks the electorate into nine “typology groups”, each of which accounts for between 9% and 16% of the voting public.  The groups identified by Pew are as follows: Staunch Conservatives (11% of voters), Main Street Republicans (14%), Libertarians (10%), Disaffecteds (11%), Post-moderns (14%), New Coalition Democrats (9%), Hard-pressed Democrats (15%), Solid Liberals (16%), Bystanders (10% of the general population, 0% of registered voters). 

Two of these groups (the Hard-pressed Democrats and the Disaffecteds) are over-represented in the South, Kromm notes, while Libertarians and Solid Liberals are underrepresented.  The Hard-pressed Democrats and the Disaffecteds, Kromm notes, believe that government has a potentially important role to play in the life of the nation, but, as the name suggests, the Disaffecteds tend to be cynical about the political process.  Both groups tend to be highly critical of big business.

“The upshot,” in Kromm’s view: “Despite what the Tea Party or libertarian think tanks might say, many Southerners still see a role for government in resolving the problems they and their communities face.”

Please read both articles and give us your reactions. 

2 thoughts on “The Future of Southern Politics: Two views

  1. Aren’t there issues in common that low-income white voters have with voters of color that could be highlighted in voter-registration and election campaigns? If “disaffected” white voters, who tended to be religious on the studies’ data, could be given hope by a Christian campaign that political engagement for mercy and justice can bear fruit, many might be motivated to seek common cause with people who seem very different. My practical feelings about when politics are mixed too much with faith are when particular political parties or candidates are implied to be better or endorsed by a particular faith, congregation, or teacher. This may or may not fit U.S. standards.

  2. The political “right” has, for over a century, succeeded in capturing the vote of poor people in the South by playing the race card. That was the ploy to defeat the populists in the early 20th century. The backlash against the civil rights movement has been successfully exploited by the GOP since the late 1960s. Lyndon Johnson predicted as much when he signed the voting rights act. The only thing about his prediction was that he predicted the South would vote Republican for twenty years. Now it’s been almost fifty.

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